A PROJECTED shortfall in the University’s budget has led to concerns among students that an increased focus on commercial services will be detrimental to their welfare.
The University has foreseen a shortfall of £3 million in its budget by the end of the academic year. The overspend has occurred chiefly as a result of unexpectedly high energy bills, and is to be remedied by campus-wide cut-backs on the use of electricity and an increased focus on income-generating activities such as conferences, printing and campus shops.
A complete review of the budget is underway, and is being overseen by Vice-Chancellor Felicity Riddy. According to David Garner, the University Press Officer, “every Department and every member of staff is involved in the drive to help the University to become more cost-efficient”.
One member of University staff, who cannot be named, said of the cost-cutting drive “it’s all very well, but you’ve still got the big bosses sitting there with their big salaries and all the perks”.
When asked about what he thought an increased focus by the University on commercial ventures might mean for students, Matthew Lacey of Alcuin College said “I wouldn’t like the idea of University facilities being monopolised by conferences and I wouldn’t want large amounts of student-received finances to be spent on them either”.
Catherine Vondrak, of the same college, said “students won’t matter anymore. We’ll just pale away into insignificance. We could fall into the lake and drown for all they care”.
This comes at a time when ninety students have recently been relocated to Alcuin from Vanbrugh C Block, which is to be converted into offices. Speaking on Friday, Mickey Masefield, Vanbrugh Chair, said “it sometimes feels like they operate as a conference park rather than an actual university, and they wish students wouldn’t get in the way for 30 weeks of the year”.
Nat Thwaites-McGowan, the SU Services Officer said on Thursday “The University have set themselves a target of reducing their budget deficit. Several methods are being considered, one of which is to increase commercial income. The alternative, one might suppose, would be to cut services in other areas. Given, then, that an increased concentration on generating income will save services in other areas, I don’t think this should be seen as a negative decision”.
David Garner claimed that the University is not “seeking to engage in significant new income-generating activities, but we want to make our existing commercial activities [such as Costcutter and the Conference Park] more profitable”. He was keen to emphasise that such activities exist to subsidise facilities and services for students and members of University staff.
The University asked that students conserve energy where possible. Thwaites-McGowan joined the call for greater campus energy consciousness on Thursday, saying “every student who takes the positive decision to turn off a light or a computer when it isn’t needed is helping the situation.”